Responding to the King : The Unrepentant & The Invitation
On Sunday, August 2nd we held an outdoor gathering where live-streaming & audio recording was not feasible. So, Pastor Paul converted his teaching notes into a written piece for those who were not able to join us on Sunday. Please forgive improper grammar and typos as spoken notes were converted to writing fairly quickly.
In chapters 5-7, Matthew introduces us to Jesus the teacher. In chapters 8 & 9, Matthew paints a portrait of Jesus the miracle worker and disciple caller. In chapter 10, Jesus instructs His disciples and sets proper expectations of what it means to follow & serve Him.
Now, we are working through chapters 11 & 12 where Matthew curates a collection of responses to Jesus. We see how the disciples, John the Baptist, the crowds, Pharisees, and Jesus’ own family respond to who Jesus is and what He teaches.
By stepping back and catching these movements, we see the repeated pattern of discipleship. It always starts with seeing & hearing Jesus and always moves us toward a response to Him; either receiving or rejecting Him. So, when Jesus teaches us, works in our life, calls us to Him, and instructs us; we can look into Matthew 11 & 12 for a collection of responses that help inform our own personal response to Jesus.
In Matthew 11:20-30, we get a window into Jesus’ desired response for everyone and the 2 pathways out of that response. This formed our outline this Sunday:
It’s wise to start where Jesus starts: a call to repent. Verse 20 sets up this teaching from Jesus based on the lack of repentance from a group of people living in a variety of towns.
What does repent mean? To express sincere regret about one’s wrong-doing or wrong-thinking. Websters dictionary helped us get started. However a bit more is embedded in the biblical idea of repentance. The Apostle Paul helps us:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death
2 Corinthians 7:10
The repentance God desires and Jesus calls for, is one that flows from a “godly grief”, not just a sincere regret or sorrow. It is not enough to feel bad that we may get caught in wrongdoing, or that our wrong thinking may even hurts other. Biblical repentance sees our sin as an offense to God first and foremost. That godly grief, produces repentance from us to God regarding our wrong-doing or wrong-thinking. This is what Jesus is looking for in all people, because all of us have thought and acted wrongly toward God.
Pause & Consider: Repentance to God and with others is not something normal to our usual rhythms of following Christ in our culture. Is this good for us? Are there places you need to spend time repenting to God over sin (a way of living or thinking that is not what God desires of you)?
The lack of repentance is what inspires Jesus’ difficult, truth filled words in verses 21-24. He pronounces woe upon the cities and towns (or more precisely the people in those places) where Jesus had performed many of His miracles and given much of His teachings. These people had received more truth directly from the person of Jesus, and yet, still chose to reject Him as Lord & Savior. We cannot miss this side of Jesus. He has hard, direct and damning words for those who reject Him.
However, a point of clarity here is important. Jesus does not pronounce woe or promise judgement because these people were sinful (for who isn’t?). Rather, His condemning words are because of their lack of repentance. This is a poignant reminder of our hope — it is not our goodness that saves us, but our repentance over our sin. God does not expect perfect people, but penitent people. God is not angered by our sin (whatever our sin may be), but our stubbornness to not repent of it. So when Jesus exposes our sin, if we turn anywhere but to Him for absolution from that sin, we will ultimately face His wrath.
In these condemning words from Christ, we also get a window in His economy of justice. For those who received more revelation of Jesus, should have more easily responded with repentance. Since they didn’t, their judgment is more severe. On the surface, this makes sense to our idea of justice (to whom much is given, much is required). However, what does this mean for us in 2020 who are not experiencing Jesus first hand? Is less expected of us? The apostle Peter helps us here as he writes this in his second letter:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
2 Peter 1:16-20
Peter speaks of the Transfiguration of Jesus he personally witnessed (Matthew 17). What a crazy, powerful, moving experience Peter had to anchor his faith in Christ upon. He saw Him in all His glory with Moses & Elijah and heard God the Father speak over Him! However, Peter says something critically important as reflects on that mountain top experience. He says we have something “more fully confirmed” than his best experience with Jesus: the prophetic word, or Scriptures. It is to this Word that Peter says we would do well to pay attention to. It illuminates darkness in our minds and it gives rise to faith in our hearts.
So, if we have something “more” in the Word than those who lived with Jesus have first hand – what would Jesus say to us? I think His expectation is for us to respond with repentance to the reality of who He is and who we are remains. We must be a people who allows the Word of God to humble us with its truth.
Even today we cannot deny Him and escape His justice. Jesus as the Just Judge needs to humble us.
In verse 25 we are told “at that time Jesus declared…”. Jesus & His Word doesn’t leave us humbled; or helpless and full of fear or shame. He lifts the lowly and draws near to the penitent. Yes, His truth can cut but His words of grace can comfort at the same time. Immediately, or “at that time” Jesus’ tone changes from one a Just Judge to a Merciful Savior.
The grace that Jesus speaks of here is rooted in the Sovereign will of God. The Father knows who will receive Jesus and who will reject Him. We may wonder or wrestle with this tension: “Does God choose me?” or “Do I choose God?”. Jesus seems to teach a yes to both questions. In consecutive thoughts Jesus says no-one knows God, except those who God chooses and then extends an invitation, “Come to me …” to anyone who desires to come.
God’s sovereignty cannot be subject to my will or wants; yet in His sovereignty He invites me to choose Him. While we may not be able to fully grasp this intellectually, our hearts should be drawn to the glorious invitation that Jesus closes this teaching with in verses 28-30.
First, back to our idea of repentance. When Jesus invites us to Himself, He fills out the journey of repentance. Repentance is not just a turning from sin, but also includes a turning toward Jesus. It is a saying no to our desired way of thinking and living and saying yes to Jesus’ desired way of thinking and living for us.
Our way of thinking and living heaps burdens upon us and wearies our soul. We cannot figure life out; we cannot secure our future; we cannot find our way to God, and we cannot become “gods“. It is this striving within the human that Jesus offers rest for; it is a deep soul rest.
For all who are weary with the questions of life, tired from white-knuckling your way through life or heavy with carrying human burdens: Jesus offers rest on the other side of our repentance. In Jesus, The Person of Rest, our souls can find a home. He knows us fully and loves us perfectly and in Him we live, we belong, and we have purpose. Our soul’s searching and seeking can cease.
There are some passages of scripture where it feels like less is more; especially from a teaching/preaching perspective. Then there are others that feel so rich with grace, so counter-intuitive to our way of thinking, or so deep with truth that we cannot exhaust them. I feel like these three verses are an example of that. Spending extended times considering these verses, praying over these verses, asking the Spirit to show us the depth of what Christ means is well worth our time. Sit in this teaching, cross-reference its thoughts to other parts of the Bible. This teaching is one that may take us a lifetime to quarry the depths of.
Pause & Consider: Can you set aside several chunks of time over the next week or two to return to Matthew 11:28-30? Go slow through it. Pray over it. Read blog posts on it or listen to other sermons on it. There is much food for your faith in these verses that one 30-minute sermon cannot do justice.
For me personally, there was three words & ideas that I contemplated over the past few weeks as I returned to these verses over and over: Come, Take, Learn
The invitation here is to come to the Person of Jesus for life. The author of & perfector of our faith; The creator & sustainer of our life; The way, The truth, The life; The bread of life; The light of the world, The divine made human. The list of titles and attributes that make worthy of us going to Him, rather than anywhere else is quite long.
So, when we respond to this invitation perhaps we come to Jesus with a similar posture & tone as the Apostle Peter did: “Where else do I turn? For you have the words of Eternal Life” [John 6:68] When everything else has been weighed and found wanting, Jesus will remain. Come to Him.
The invitation here is to take from Jesus a place of belonging and identity. It’s a place of being identified as His. Yoked with Him; paired up; together; intimately side by side with Him. To be identified as His and with Him. Your partner in life is Christ
It’s also an identity of purpose. It’s a place of work and labor alongside Jesus. Your co-worker in being a part of God’s Kingdom work is none other that Jesus Himself.
To take His yoke upon us is to find belonging with Christ and we find meaning for Christ.
The invitation here is to learn from Jesus how to live here as a citizen of God’s Kingdom. The work of the Kingdom is hard, difficult & suffering will come (Matthew 10). So, how do we labor faithfully and diligently but also rest joyfully and often? By learning from Jesus who knew the security of God’s love and trusted the sovereignty of God’s will.
It is critically important to our discipleship that we see and respond to all of Jesus. Jesus calls for repentance from all people and we are invited to respond. To reject that is to place our self on a pathway to ultimately meet Jesus, the Just Judge. However, to receive that call to repentance, to turn from our self and toward Christ, is to be on a pathway of rest for your soul because you find Jesus, the Merciful Savior.
Jesus is fully both – a Just Judge & Merciful Savior. May His perfect love and abundant grace compel us to repent to Him and rest in Him.